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Loyalty and power in union-party alliances: labor politics in postcommunism

posted on 2023-06-08, 05:22 authored by Sabina Avdagic
Against the background of the changing relationships between trade unions and political parties in Western Europe, this paper examines the nature and outcomes of union–party alliances in East Central Europe. The paper advances two interrelated arguments. First, the nature of union–party ties in postcommunism is significantly different and can be best described as an inverse dependency relationship in which political parties have always been the stronger partner. Second, contrary to the conventional assumptions based on the experience of Western Europe, strong union– party ties have worked to the detriment of labor in East Central Europe. This paradox is explained by poor reserves of loyalty, which are a direct consequence of the absence of a long history of close ties and mutually beneficial exchanges. The way in which such new alliances respond to economic imperatives is not likely to be affected by commitment concerns, but rather by the balance of power in the relationship. Given the fact that the balance of power is tilted towards parties, disloyal behavior is more likely to occur on the side of political parties than on that of the unions. In particular, in the context of pervasive economic constraints and limited party competition over economic policy issues, strong ties with the unions increase parties’ incentives to coopt union leaders in the task of communicating the necessity of reforms to their constituencies.


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  • Published


Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

Department affiliated with

  • Politics Publications


MPIfG Discussion Paper 04 /7 ISSN 0944-2073

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